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Lord Judge says lawyers don't want to become judges because of an 'old-fashioned' image problem

Lawyers do not want to become High Court judges because they are seen as old-fashioned and 'fustian', according to the country's top judge, Lord Judge.

 By Christopher Hope, Whitehall Editor
Last Updated: 10:43AM GMT 08 Jan 2009
Lord Judge: Lord Judge says lawyers don't want to become judges because of an 'old-fashioned' image problem 
Lord Judge (r) has said younger barristers feel judges are 'old-fashioned' Photo: PA

The Lord Chief Justice of England and Wales said top barristers were being put off from becoming judges because of an outdated image problem.

Writing in a report on why lawyers become senior judges, Lord Judge said he was concerned that people were put off because the profession was seen as "old-fashioned and fustian" - a term which can be used to describe pompous or pretentious speech.

There are 110 High Court judges in England and Wales. The report, written for senior judges, surveyed serving six recently appointed judges and 29 highly qualified barristers and solicitors.

Lord Judge said the research uncovered "a general concern about working in an old-fashioned, fustian atmosphere, with old-fashioned, fustian colleagues".

Yet this was no longer the case, he said, as: "High Court judges are, in the main, in their fifties and sixties, with a sprinkling of new judges still in their forties and a very small number of older judges in their early seventies.

"One of the most striking features of this apparently disparate group of independent-minded individuals is the warm collegiate support that they offer to each other."

The report found High Court judges, who are all knighted or made dames, were attracted by the prospect of the prestige and challenge of the job and an acknowledgement of their quality as a lawyer.

The report added: "Although none of the recent appointees suggested that the knighthood was an important attraction, it was clear that the status and prestige accorded to High Court judiciary was an essential aspect of the appointment."

But it found that many barristers were put off by the workload, a fall in salary and working far from home for long periods.

One third of the 21 barristers interviewed cited a drop in salary as the main reason for not wanting to become a judge.

One female barrister said she faced a five fold drop in income, saying: "The idea of spending the next 15 years of my life being a High Court judge doing rubbish work is frankly too depressing to contemplate."

Financial concerns were worse for lawyers who are on their second or third marriages, with young children, at a time when they might be expected to be "tapped on the shoulder" for a top judge's role.

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